Project Profile: Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

October 22, 2012 / no comments

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The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts houses a state-of-the-art concert hall and
performing arts theater, wrapped by a soaring glass-enclosed lobby.

A striking new addition to the Kansas City skyline, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts houses a state-of-the-art concert hall and performing arts theater, wrapped by a soaring glass-enclosed lobby. Safdie Architects worked with BNIM Architects to design the approximately 285,000 square-foot structure. In addition to beautiful performance spaces, the Kauffman Center also contains offices, rehearsal space, warm-up rooms, and dressing rooms.

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Project Profile: United States Institute of Peace

August 6, 2012 / no comments

Recognized with the following Awards:
2011 GE Edison Award
2012 IALD Award of Excellence
2012 IES Illumination Award of Merit

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The wing-like roofs of the United States Institute of Peace
glow softly both inside and outside
.

Prominently located near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the United States Institute of Peace (designed by Safdie Architects) contains offices, an international conference center, education center, research facilities, and public exhibition and event spaces. The wing-like roofs connect the 300,000-square-foot building’s three curving sections, enclosing two atria below. These multi-layer translucent structures presented the most challenging lighting problem – to light the roofs with no visible sources, so they glow softly both inside and outside. Lam Partners designed the pervasive lighting theme that is present throughout: light sources are fully concealed or designed to disappear, revealing and animating, but never competing with the architecture. The result is a visual representation of peace that takes its place in the D.C. skyline.

The translucent steel-frame roofs are comprised of outer diffusing glass and an inner white membrane, with structure sandwiched in between. Extensive computer modeling, material sample testing, and a full-scale mockup in Germany were required to determine the roofs’ transmissive and diffusing characteristics, and to validate the lighting solution.

Perimeter offices are fully daylighted. Clerestories bring daylight into corridors so that they often do not need to be lighted electrically. Inexpensive T5 strips integrated continuously into the curving clerestories’ base keep the ceiling surfaces pristine and provide dual function, indirectly lighting both offices and corridors.

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Each office has a custom T5 linear fluorescent pendant downlight with shielding
designed to block views into fixtures from outside or in the atria.

Supplementing the indirect lighting at the clerestories, each office has a custom T5 linear fluorescent pendant downlight with shielding designed to block views into fixtures from outside or in the atria. Lighting is controlled with manual-on occupancy sensors.

One atrium is devoted mainly to research activities, while the other contains mostly conferences and public events. In both atriums, the sense of serenity and the purity of the architecture are preserved, despite the presence of busy offices. The eye is drawn upward to the gracefully arching roof, and glowing daylit ceilings, allowing the atrium roof to remain the focal point.

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Clerestories bring daylight into corridors so that they often
do not need to be lighted electrically.

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Echoing the curving white roof of the atrium,
the amphitheater ceiling itself is the light fixture.

In the amphitheater, the ceiling itself is the light fixture. Echoing the curving white roof of the atrium, the amphitheater is an ideal venue for conferences. Comfortable levels of illumination for both presenters and audience members were a focus. Concealed dimmable T5HO fluorescent strips in a carefully designed ceiling profile provide high levels of glare-free illumination for videoconferencing, minimizing spill on projection screens. MR16 HIR adjustable accents provide targeted lighting of the presenter and markerboard. Lighting is controlled via an audio-visual touchscreen for seamless selection of lighting scenes for various room configurations.

Integrated into the curving auditorium ceiling, dimmable T5HO forward-throw cove fixtures provide general lighting without recessed fixtures blemishing the dramatic forms. Halogen PAR38 track lighting for the stage is hidden but accessible from the floor below. Recessed PAR38 HIR adjustable accents downlight the stage and wash the stage wall. Slatted walls glow magically with hidden xenon strips lighting the cavity behind, creating a sense of openness. A preset scene dimming system controls all lighting. The result is a unique, yet peaceful, auditorium space that perfectly reflects both the architecture of the building and the Institute itself.

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Careful lighting design reveals the architecture and provides sufficient light levels,
yet avoids the clutter of visible fixtures.

From below, the roof’s pure form and texture is inspiring and calming. Careful lighting design reveals the architecture and provides sufficient light levels, yet avoids the clutter of visible fixtures. T5HO forward-throw cove fixtures in the tops of walls light the atria roofs. Digital addressable ballasts allow light output to be tuned along the roof perimeter and dimmed overall, effectively accentuating the roofs’ curvature. This single source simultaneously provides the interior ambient lighting and the exterior surface glow. Above the uppermost windows, necklaces of matching MR16 HIR halogen and PAR20 CMH adjustable monopoints provide supplemental downlighting – dimmable halogen for banquets and special events, and CMH for energy-efficient punch during winter afternoons and gloomy days.

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Integrated into the curving auditorium ceiling, dimmable T5HO forward-throw cove fixtures
provide general lighting without recessed fixtures blemishing the dramatic forms.

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In-grade CMH adjustable accents illuminate the overhang, seamlessly
extending the glow outside to the roof’s lowest point.

The roof’s overhang is essential to create the dramatic form of the roof, visible from both the National Mall and from the west of the city. In-grade CMH adjustable accents illuminate the overhang, seamlessly extending the glow outside to the roof’s lowest point.

A central lighting control system employs occupancy sensing, daylight sensing, scheduling, and local preset scene control techniques for maximum energy savings and occupant satisfaction.

The project achieved LEED Gold certification.

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A central lighting control system provides maximum
energy savings and occupant satisfaction.

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Stairs are illuminated solely by compact fluorescent sources
hidden in plaster niches at the stair sidewalls.

Building details and the exterior are also pristine. Stairs are illuminated solely by compact fluorescent sources hidden in plaster niches at the stair sidewalls, eliminating visible hardware in hard-to-reach overhead locations.

No conventional façade lighting is used, minimizing spill light into the sky. The glow from within the building provides most of the site illumination, allowing the remarkable building to speak for itself and allowing views into the soaring atrium. Site lighting consists solely of an LED strip in the curving bench, a soft wash on the inscription, and a few shielded bollards, without any superfluous fixtures to detract from the building’s monumental impact.

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The glow from within the building provides most of the site illumination,
allowing the remarkable building to speak for itself.

Photo Credits: Glenn Heinmiller/Lam Partners (1, 3-10), Bill Fitz-Patrick/United States Institute of Peace (2)

Good Lighting Design is Good Business

June 25, 2012 / no comments

Thomas Watson, the long-time CEO of IBM was credited with the phrase, “Good design is good business” back in the 1950’s. Today, we still recognize its relevance. Well-designed products sell: cars, appliances, clothing, and of course, anything from Apple. They ‘get’ design. Even the packaging is attractive. Architecture is no different, but architecture tends to be a bit more complex than products. The design and construction of a building has so many facets that quality control is often difficult to manage. Well-designed commercial products are plentiful and often incorporated into well-designed architecture. But the true measure of successful architecture is how all of these products and materials come together. This arrangement still rests in the artful hands of the architectural or interior designer.

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Tom Friedman has written many times that America has to keep up its entrepreneurial spirit and creative energy, or else we’ll quickly fall behind in a world we helped invent. He also states that we have to manage energy consumption and climate change. Architectural decisions early in the design process can dramatically affect this outcome. The many new technologies can help us reduce energy consumption, but once again, it’s through thoughtful design and creative applications that the picture is fully developed.

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Like architecture itself, the lighting field has many products and components available to the design professional. Light fixtures themselves come in all shapes, sizes, wattages, and colors to appeal to the buyer. They look quite attractive in catalogs or on the web. Lighting designers are often asked by architects, interior designers, or even building owners to consider using a particular type or style of fixture that they may have seen, but lighting design is different than lighting fixture design. Sure lighting designers have to select something, and if it’s a conspicuous part of the visual aesthetics, it should probably look good. But the optical and energy performance, first cost, and life-cycle cost of that fixture must also be considered. Beyond that, as with architecture, it’s the careful integration of this lighting hardware and all the associated components into the fabric of the architectural design that will result in a successful luminous environment.

Lam Partners

Expanding on the phrase “good design is good business”, let’s say “good lighting design is good business”. A lighting design firm that performs good lighting design, will likely have a thriving business. Clients will come back to them based on their creative problem solving and technical expertise. “Good lighting design is also good for business”. It implicates that good lighting design can be a vehicle to enhance a company’s bottom line. We’ve all seen the pie chart statistics that illustrate the fact that employee’s salaries are the number one operating expense for any company. If we can improve that function ever so slightly with well-designed, comfortable, glare-free lighting, we can improve the profitability of the company. Beautifully designed spaces command higher rents and can improve worker productivity. Sure, new technologies such as LED’s might help reduce energy costs, but the designer must be able to synthesize these technologies into a beautiful architectural environment that’s good for people.

Lam Partners

In addition to products for construction, we have an infinite toolbox of technologies, support, and access for performing lighting design, such as modeling capabilities, photometrically accurate software, and on-line catalogs. But being technically competent is not enough anymore. Obviously computer modeling skills and rendering capabilities are important in our careers, but even these skills are being off-shored by major design firms. Creativity will not only make a better workplace, but also keep us marketable in that workplace.

The outlook looks optimistic for good quality design. Many argue that basic education today trains us to think logically by associating related concepts, thus reducing our ability to be creative. However most designers in the architectural field attended schools where creativity and approaching problems in new or different ways are the norm. As a creative profession, we must constantly strive for innovative solutions to everyday architectural issues. Good design will help us produce beautiful architecture, save energy, be more sustainable… and will be good for business.

Photo Credits: Glenn Batuyong (1), © Bruce T. Martin (2), Lam Partners (3), © Andrew Bordwin / Gensler (4)

Basic Sustainable Lighting Concepts: On Daylighting

June 27, 2011 / no comments

Part 2 of an ongoing series outlining design principles for sustainable lighting design: here are a few ideas regarding daylighting, to help navigate the greenwash.

Only a little direct sun, please

Too much direct sunlight increases the indoor temperature, creating higher cooling loads. It also increases the potential for glare. If there’s too much glare, people are likely to pull the shades and leave them that way, which equals no more daylighting! Most interior shades do little to reject the heat load. Consider using exterior overhangs to keep excessive sun outside, and light-shelves to distribute the daylight indoors so it’s more useful.

Don’t add complexity and cost by creating one problem and mitigating it with another technology. The New York Times Building has been criticized for this. Its floor-to-ceiling glass has the potential to let too much light and heat inside, so the ceramic tubes outside the glass were introduced to help block some of it. If you have less glass to begin with, you can use less exterior shading… If you can afford it and don’t care, then have at it, as long as you keep your energy use down. Otherwise, try not to pile on unnecessary complexity chasing an aesthetic.

Installing shades is not daylighting

Simply installing internal glare-control shades or blinds is NOT a form of daylighting. Neither is using a lot of glass just to get more light inside. The façade of a building must engage the sunlight to utilize it in a meaningful way, coaxing the useful light in while controlling excessive light and rejecting heat. This means articulated façades, not flush glass.

If you do use shades, make them automated if you can afford it. Automated shades can adjust for different lighting conditions throughout the day, and they don’t rely on a forgetful occupant to pull them back up. If you can’t afford automated shades, try to design your envelope with external shades or a light-shelf such that you can keep the upper part of the window open all the time and still allow manual shading below it.

Dimming the lights

Daylight switching is no replacement for daylight dimming. Switching has a tendency to irritate occupants, because it flips the lights on and off throughout the day when the ambient light is near the threshold light level. More often than not, if it doesn’t work correctly, it will simply be disabled instead of fixed. You definitely can’t rely on people to make the best choices on an hourly basis either – the lights go on and stay on all day. Flipping a switch is what we’ve been trained to do all our lives.

Rely instead on dimming your perimeter spaces. There are variable levels of savings to be had here, from actual energy savings, to rebates just for putting daylight dimming systems in. Every little bit helps in terms of energy – initial cost is a different matter. There may be legislation or changes to the building codes in the near future that would require you to use daylight dimming anyway.

Digital is in!

All the ballast manufacturers, and a few lighting controls manufacturers, are finally, albeit slowly, switching over from older analog technologies, to digital or hybrid analog/digital systems that operate with greater precision and functionality. If you use one of these emerging technologies, your system is more likely to still be in style in the next decade or so (but don’t jump the gun on a brand-spanking-new product, lest it be discontinued). DALI is one of those technologies; it’s been around for about ten years now, and is slowly catching on in the US.

Don’t go crazy

Just because dimming is warranted in daylit zones and conference rooms, doesn’t mean you should use it everywhere. Some advocates claim additional energy savings by being able to dim the lights everywhere, but that would only be if you’ve over-illuminated your interior spaces to begin with. Design them correctly and you can save a lot of materials and costs. Dimming everything is another example of mitigating a problem that you may have created yourself.